A repeating element of DNA has been isolated and sequenced from the genome of Bordetella pertussis. Restriction map analysis of this element shows single internal ClaI, SphI, BstEII and SalI sites. Over 40 DNA fragments are seen in ClaI digests of B. pertussis genomic DNA to which the repetitive DNA sequence hybridizes. Sequence analysis of the repeat reveals that it has properties consistent with bacterial insertion sequence (IS) elements. These properties include its length of 1053 bp, multiple copy number and presence of 28 bp of near-perfect inverted repeats at its termini. Unlike most IS elements, the presence of this element in the B. pertussis genome is not associated with a short duplication in the target DNA sequence. This repeating element is not found in the genomes of B. parapertussis or B. bronchiseptica. Analysis of a DNA fragment adjacent to one copy of the repetitive DNA sequence has identified a different repeating element which is found in nine copies in B. parapertussis and four copies in B. pertussis, suggesting that there may be other repeating DNA elements in the different Bordetella species. Computer analysis of the B. pertussis repetitive DNA element has revealed no significant nucleotide homology between it and any other bacterial transposable elements, suggesting that this repetitive sequence is specific for B. pertussis.